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The pressure is on community clinics

The pressure is on community clinics

Picture of Anna Gorman

The patients call it simply “the clinic.”  It’s where they go to get their kids’ shots for school.  It’s where they get check-ups and medication for their high blood pressure. It’s where they get advice on finding jobs or apartments.

Under healthcare reform, community clinics in Los Angeles and around the nation are expected to become one of the centerpieces of the newly revamped system. The federal government is banking on centers’ ability to provide primary and preventive care to patients and to keep them out of expensive specialty care and emergency rooms.

In some ways, the success of the healthcare reform law will depend on whether they can meet that challenge. With an influx of federal money, clinics are trying to respond to the challenge to lower costs, improve care and expand access. 

Community health centers started in the 1960s as part of the war on poverty. Today, they serve more than 20 million Americans by providing primary medical care, chronic disease management and preventive health services. Doctors and nurses working in the centers have a front-row seat to the biggest problems in public health and healthcare today.

As a health journalism fellow, I plan to write a series of stories linked by place and at times recurring personalities that show at ground-level the benefits or challenges of a tectonic change in health care policy. Each chapter will work the seams of tension between what has been, what’s supposed to be and what is.

The stories will focus on real people and real tales but will try to answer big questions:

Will services expand and options improve? Or will existing community health care services become more overloaded, inadequately funded and inaccessible? Can patient behavior be altered and costs controlled? Can clinics reduce avoidable and hugely expensive hospital admissions and visits to emergency rooms? 

I look forward to getting started!

Comments

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Hi there! As a writer myself and someone who has worked in all areas of healthcare since '98 I'm equally as passionate about finding ways to make the system better. My question to you is how do we reach the "neediest of patients" themselves? When so many are without access or read what people like you and I write---how do we get them to show up for appointments when means to transportation is limited, address literacy issues that prevent them from understanding how best to participate in their care, or embrace the behavior changes needed to prevent obesity, smoking, etc. that contributes to chronic conditions costing the system $100s of millions of dollars? I volunteered in the Cook County clinic here in Chicago and was heartbroken to see an ex-high school football player now diabetic at 19 yo, could barely read, and as a result, get a job. I wanted to help him with his resume but he never came back to the clinic, let alone to address his health issues. This is a great area of focus--how do we get these communities involved???

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